In 1950 the prominent American photographer Eugene Smith arrived in Spain to report on the ‘prolonged drought’ of the country. One of the most famous international reporters explored with his camera a poverty-stricken and backward country until he came to Deleitosa, which he found suitable for his report. The photos he took there shocked the world and condemned the situation of that post-war Spain isolated from other countries.

In the two and a half months that ‘El Smith’, as he was known in Deleitosa, spent in the village he drew up a report of 24 pages and accumulated 45 rolls of film, 1,575 negatives, and 113 final printed photographs. He had arrived there in the spring of 1950 after reading an article in the ABC newspaper on darkest Extremadura. Together with his assistant Ted Castle and his interpreter Nina Pinado, he joined in with village life; he considered this to be necessary in order to carry out his work.

His photographs captured a society abandoned to its fate and its backwardness in which the streets were unsurfaced and there was no running water, telephone, electricity, or health infrastructure.

In this context of shortage and subsistence Smith’s lens focussed on the daily life of the people, their customs, their faces, their work… Spinners, peasants on the threshing floor, little girls on their First Communion, priests, civil guards, children sweeping with branches, ‘Long live Franco’ painted on walls…

These vignettes included an atavistic aspect which was particularly attractive to the photographer. In this way he did not merely capture the harsh reality of the inhabitants with the dryness of the graphic reporter of the time but added a touch of lyricism and exoticism which made his photographs works of art. His big personality and his non-conformism gave rise to a work which some have compared with the baroque or the vision of Buñuel.

Eugene was not only able to confirm the shortages suffered by Spain during those hard years but also had the opportunity to suffer the lack of freedom. He left Deleitosa hastily fleeing from Franco’s police. The stark vision of the country which his photos of the village would show to the world was far from being to the liking of the Spanish authorities.

After Smith had managed to get his photographic report out of Spain, paradoxically he also came up against censorship in his own country when Life magazine decided not to publish it; for diplomatic reasons at that time the United States did not wish to show a Spain in a bad light.

Despite this Eugene Smith had part of his photographs published in April 1951 in a report entitled Spanish Village which caused an international sensation. The eyes of millions of people from all over the world fell on Deleitosa and saw through Smith’s lens a medieval Spain in the middle of the 20th century; he achieved this by his dispassionate and crude albeit also humanist treatment. Subsequently he published the complete essay of 24 pages with its photographs which was a great success. 22 million copies were sold all over Europe and America in several editions.

Eugene Smith, ‘El Smith’, had a turbulent life full of excesses and died in 1978. In Deleitosa his memory is kept alive; there is a bar named ‘Spanish Village’ and a street dedicated to him. In the Town Hall there is a permanent exhibition dedicated to his legacy.